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Traditional Media and its Fear of the Blogosphere

“Convention seats do not turn Internet gossips into journalists.” Or so says the sub-headline from an LA Times article by Alex S. Jones titled, “Bloggers Are the Sizzle, Not the Steak.” In the article Jones defends his traditional journalist cohorts from the onslaught of the blogosphere. “Make no mistake, this moment of blogging legitimization [the invitation of bloggers to the political conventions] — and temporary press credentials — doesn’t turn bloggers into journalists,” Jones writes. Jones supports himself with:

However, bloggers, with few exceptions, don’t add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

This is fair enough, most bloggers are not writing in a traditionally journalistic way and most political bloggers make no claims to be non-partisan. However, it was Jones’ later argument that really bothered me.

However, if history is any indicator, such earnestness will attract those who would exploit it, and they include some canny, inventive people. There is already talk of bloggers who would consider publishing items for cash and commercial blogs that tout products.

Blogging is especially amenable to introducing negative information into the news stream and for circulating rumors as fact. Blogging’s fact-checking apparatus is just the built-in truth squad of those who read the blog and howl loudly if they wish to dispute some assertion. It is, in a sense, a place where everyone has his own truth.

Bloggers who would consider publishing items for cash? Is that really a fair claim to make without providing some evidence? Also, is it even something traditional media should bring up in the age of corporate synergy. I’m sure that the LA Times, a Tribune newspaper, does reporting on other Tribune properties in a postitive light. Just as you see the latest American Idol star paraded on every Fox show.

As for the claim of fact checking and reliability? What about Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair, I mean, if you can’t trust The New Republic or The New York Times, who can you trust? I agree with Mr. Jones that everything everything a blogger says should be taken at face value. But shouldn’t that be true with all media?

July 19, 2004